In October of 2000, Tony Gwynn was granted free agency from the San Diego Padres for the first time in his Major League career. A year earlier, on Aug 6, 1999, he had become a member of the 3,000 hit club, assuring him of a future spot in baseball’s Hall of Fame. Needless to say, when word got out that Gwynn was on the market, it was front page sports news all over North America.
As it turned out, the Padres released Gwynn from his contract in order to renegotiate his salary—they had paid him $6.3 million in 2000 for just 36 games played and were expecting more of the same in 2001. They made a new deal with Gwynn to play 2001 at $2 million, a much better price for an aging athlete who would only play in 71 games in that final year before hanging ’em up for good.
Fast forward to 2015. The Calgary Roughnecks of the NLL have just gone through a difficult season that saw them squeak into the playoffs by the skin of their teeth, although they then went all the way to the West Division finals before finally losing to the Edmonton Rush. Like the Padres, they have been faced with a tough decision regarding an aging star: Geoff Snider.
Snider is the league’s all-time leader in regular season faceoff wins (2468) as well as playoff faceoff wins (208), with the third-most loose balls (1,857) and the second-most penalty minutes (582). He is a Calgary boy and a hometown hero, as Gwynn was in San Diego. With the gaudy numbers he has put up in his career, Snider is a guaranteed Hall of Famer once he decides to call it a career.
In 2015, Snider recorded his fewest-ever points in a season (11) and fewest-ever loosies (121) as well as winning the third-fewest faceoffs in a season of his career (256).
The Roughnecks, seeking to shed some salary, attempted to renegotiate Snider’s contract and, when they were unable to reach an agreement, they released him from his contract on Aug. 3.
This is where the Snider story diverges from the Gwynn narrative: when Snider got released, no one noticed. In fact, the release didn’t even show up on the NLL’s transaction page until the following week, which was when Marisa Ingemi of In Lacrosse We Trust spotted the single line of news and reported on it.
The Calgary Sun’s Scott Mitchell reported on Snider’s release the following day, finally getting some answers from both Snider and Roughnecks GM Mike Board about the circumstances that led to the release.
Aside from the Sun story and coverage here, that’s all the sports world has seen fit to print about Snider’s departure. No mention has been made on the Calgary Roughnecks website or on the NLL website (aside from that line on the Transaction page). In fact, the Roughnecks posted an article about their free agents on Aug 12—nine days after Snider’s release—without mentioning his name.
To his credit, Snider has shown nothing but class since the release, not making mention of it on Twitter until the news finally broke and saying nothing but good things about the Roughnecks organization in the wake of the release.
How is this even possible? How does a future Hall of Famer get dumped by the team where he has played most of his career—the team in the city where he grew up—without so much as a blip in the news when it happens? How does it take more than a week for that information to leak and how is it that only two news bodies even notice? How is it that most of the lacrosse world still hasn’t taken notice?
If a player of Snider’s stature is released in any of the major sports, people hear about it the moment it happens. There are press conferences, news stories in print, online, on TV and radio. This. Is. A. Big. Deal. But in lacrosse, it seems to be just another day at the office, barely worthy of a footnote. In fact, this omission is so odious that it almost seems like the NLL and the Calgary Roughnecks are trying to bury it.
If the Powers That Be in the NLL are wondering why their league’s attendance keeps sliding, I’d say this is one of the key reasons. There does not seem to be any sense of the importance of self-promotion. If you don’t keep your sport in the public eye, if you don’t publicize the major events in your sport—hell, if you don’t seem able to even recognize your own major events—then why would anyone else notice?
This is a failure of the league to do its job. It’s not good enough and it outrages me because the league—and its elite players, like Geoff Snider—deserve better. The NLL will never be taken seriously as a professional league until they start acting like one and this is yet more proof that they still don’t get it.